The Life of Antonin Carême, the First Celebrity Chef
By Ian Kelly (Walker & Company, $26) A child abandoned in the streets of Paris during the French Revolution survives, then thrives as a chef to the elite, powerful, and wealthy. This is the story of Antonin Carême, who made Napoleon's wedding cake and cooked for the Rothschilds and the Romanovs. In Cooking for Kings, Ian Kelly captures the man who, in addition to his masterful cooking, wrote cookbooks that led readers into the glamorous world surrounding his work. In this "biography with recipes," Kelly introduces us to the novice chef learning his art, then details his transformation into an expert capable of giant, magnificently dramatic spun-sugar centerpieces. We follow Carême into the finest kitchens, finding recipes for the dishes he created for particular dinners, and finally witness his ironic death (the result of breathing charcoal fumes from cooking fires). Kelly writes: "His recipes still dress the tables of French restaurants the world over. . . . Carême's codification of sauces was taken as gospel in the profession . . . and in every kitchen chefs wore and still wear Carême's hat." All told, it's wonderfully satisfying to learn about this influential culinary pioneer, and to take his advice: Giving recipes freely, he urged, "Try them yourself."